Haitians Wonder What Happens Now
The day after the election, the future of Haiti looks even less clear.
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- On Monday, Haitians awoke with their hopes for a smooth transition to a new government dashed by a series of missteps and miscalculations that left the outcome on hold.
After widespread complaints by voters who said they either couldn't find their names on the voting lists or were coerced into voting for a candidate who was not their choice, opposition parties called for the cancellation of the vote. In a rare show of unity, a dozen candidates made the demand Sunday during a news conference at the Karibe Convention Center in Pétion-Ville, a suburb of the capital.
But a few hours later, Michel Martelly, an entertainer better known as Sweet Micky, demanded that he be named president. Martelly, who emerged as the overwhelming favorite in the final stretch, ran a brilliant campaign and confounded the political class, who saw his candidacy as quixotic.
Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, who was barred from running for president, quickly joined forces with Martelly as they crisscrossed the metropolitan area demanding fair results, which would mean declaring him the winner. Charles Baker, another candidate, also joined the duo. "I couldn't have Wyclef, but I'll take Martelly," chanted a crowd of about 500 people near the Karibe Center during an impromptu march. "I'm sick and tired of the status quo."
Martelly, who promised to keep his supporters on the streets, called the elections an electoral coup d'état and said he will contest the results if he is not declared the winner.
If the outcome of the vote is clouded, what is clear is that the people are frustrated with the administration of René Préval on two main fronts: his failure to provide leadership after the January earthquake and his inability to bring Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to Haiti. Aristide left Haiti in 2004 in disputed circumstances. He claimed he was kidnapped and forced into exile; opponents say he fled mobs that had turned against him.
When Préval was elected in 2006, the masses that still adored Aristide thought they were voting for the exiled president's clone and that Aristide would make a triumphant return to the troubled Caribbean nation.
And so bitterness against Préval grew. It reached a boiling point after the Jan. 12 earthquake that left 300,000 dead and millions homeless. Préval made few public speeches and showed little emotion. Encampments have become somewhat permanent nearly a year later. "I urged him to be in the eye of the storm, show some emotions, connect with people," said a former cabinet minister. "But he didn't listen. He listens to no one. This is sad."
What is also sad is the "shellacking" that Préval's handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin, suffered on Sunday. Scores of people interviewed in a dozen voting stations said emphatically that they were voting for change and they were frustrated with Préval. Many said that they would be voting against whomever he endorses.
"I don't want them at all," said a man at a voting poll at Lycée Toussaint, referring to Celestin and Préval. "I've been to at least four centers looking for my name, and at each one I can't find my name. But you know what? I am not going to stop. I can't let them govern me anymore."